What Will Obama Do On The Environment?

Commentary, Climate, Frontier Centre

How ideological is Barak Obama? His early associations imply his interventionist ideology is fixed and his voting record supports this claim. However, his shift to the center while campaigning suggest something different. Did he shift merely to get elected or is it a willingness to face realities? Does John Maynard Keynes comment apply? “If the facts change, I’ll change my opinion. What do you do, Sir?” Obama presented himself as a populist, but is he an opportunistic or pragmatic populist? The answer is critical for energy and climate policies.

For pragmatic reasons, many nations are already shifting away from reducing greenhouse gases, especially CO2. China and India have shown little inclination to hinder economic progress. India also took away the moral high-ground of the environmentalists by pointing out that starving people transcend questionable climate science. (Starving Indians Not Impressed by Global Warming Plan)

In Europe the poor economy has changed priorities.

Economic problems provide a lining to the cloak of green most politicians wear in the face of uncertainty about the science. An uncertainty that grows with continued cooling, exposure of data manipulation, while polls show the public question the science and place it low on their concerns.

Obama’s video statements to a San Francisco newspaper are discouraging. They are definitive, confrontational and even vindictive in proposing various programs. They also show why they are problematic. His comments about cap and trade and coal show lack of knowledge of the facts. He was quoted as saying this: “What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there.”

Cap and trade is an extension of the carbon credit plan introduced through the Kyoto Protocol, which was designed to reduce the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere. It also implies a business slant – we can make money and save the planet. As Walter Williams explains;

“Cap and Trade is deceptively peddled as a free-market solution to the yet-to-be-settled issue of manmade climate change. Under its provisions, companies would be able to emit greenhouse gases only if they had a government allowance.” (Environmentalists’ Hold on Congress)

It won’t work. A bureaucrat, not the marketplace, will determine the allowance level artificially. It will allow selective punitive measures based on political prejudice rather than any potential benefit. Production of CO2 will grow as it has despite Kyoto and voluntary measures. The wealthy will buy what they need. Businesses will grow so production grows; they will pass on the cost to the consumer. The system is already failing. (“Cap and Trade” Fallacies)

Besides, even if the entire original version of Kyoto was implemented it would make no measurable difference in atmospheric CO2. But the president elect is also confused on other matters. Consider his boast that he was “the first to call for a 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter.”

Obama confuses greenhouse gases and carbon. CO2 is the only one that equates with carbon and it is less than four percent of the total of the greenhouse gases. The human portion is miniscule and well within the error of the estimates. But the worst mistake is to call any natural greenhouse gas a pollutant. He intends to list CO2 as a toxic substance. (Junk Science: Breath Is Toxic Waste?)

I joke about seeking power of attorney for the plants to represent them in court to stop CO2 reduction plans. It will not stop warming or climate change, but will jeopardize plants. My representation is urgently needed because Obama apparently doesn’t understand the role of CO2 for plants. Current levels of 385 ppm are approximately three times below optimum growth levels as research and commercial greenhouse use shows. Lower the level and plants are jeopardized. It is even more absurd if you consider declaring any atmospheric gas toxic. Should we reduce oxygen because it causes rust?

The saddest part is that CO2 is not causing warming or climate change. CO2 levels do not drive temperature in any record past or present. It only does so in IPCC computer models and is likely why their forecasts are consistently wrong. It’s not surprising, the IPCC only consider human causes of climate change. As Roy Spencer said in his testimony before the US Senate EPW Committee “And given that virtually no research into possible natural explanations for global warming has been performed, it is time for scientific objectivity and integrity to be restored to the field of global warming research.”

Other nations are setting targets but most are on hold as the weather continues to contradict the forecasts. Meanwhile doubts grow as evidenced by an article by Mike Hulme.

“Are we paying too much attention to uncertain long-term climate predictions – dominated by greenhouse gas-driven global warming – whilst taking our eye off the more immediate weather futures which will determine the significance of climate for society over the next years and decades?” (To what climate are we adapting?)

Doubts will increase as economic conditions worsen as they will if Obama pursues his goals. As Walter Williams noted recently, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that a 15 percent cut in emissions would raise the annual average household’s energy costs by $1,300. Since energy is an input to everything we use, we can expect everything to become more costly, resulting in a reduction in economic growth.

Will Obama continue his opportunistic populism? Was it merely a ploy to assure election? Will he pursue his goal of cap-and-trade? The answer to the last question is likely yes because of ideology and the attractiveness of climate and environment to achieve control.

As Walter Williams puts it, “The thirst to wield massive control over our economy helps explain the near religious belief in manmade global warming”. Maybe David Broder was correct when he said, “Anybody that wants the presidency so much that he’ll spend two years organizing and campaigning for it is not be trusted.” If you add the phrase “compromising for it”, he is almost certainly correct.

Tim Ball is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre and has an extensive science background in climatology, especially the reconstruction of past climates and the impact of climate change on human history. He had a long academic career at the University of Winnipeg until he moved to Victoria in 1996. He has a BA from the University of Winnipeg, an MA from the University of Manitoba and a Ph.D (Doctor of Science) from the University of London England.